7 February 2024

Unhappy campers after Blowering Dam's sudden closure for water quality investigation

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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WaterNSW temporarily closed Blowering Dam

WaterNSW temporarily closed Blowering Dam over unknown black matter found on the surface of the water. Photo: WaterNSW.

A Riverina dam has reopened to the public after it was closed abruptly last week for an investigation into water quality issues.

While Blowering Dam – located near Tumut – returned a clean bill of health, visitors have expressed their frustration that the closure was not communicated sooner.

Member for Wagga Dr Joe McGirr revealed he only learned about the dam closure through a WaterNSW update at about 5:30 pm on Friday, which had mentioned that Blowering Dam was closed for maintenance.

“They made the decision on Thursday night … all they did was put something on a website and a Facebook page,” Dr McGirr said.

“Why couldn’t you have put a media release out that said, ‘Sorry, there’s a biological mess that needs testing in the dam. We’ve had to close it as a health precaution.’

“Everyone would have understood that, instead, most people turn up on the day and it’s closed. Just not good enough.”

Dr McGirr said he shared the sentiment of people’s frustration.

“It’s communication 101. I’m not critical, people should be doing things safely, but communication is half the job.”

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WaterNSW closed Blowering Dam on Friday (2 February) as a precautionary measure as they investigated an unknown black organic matter observed on the water’s surface.

On Monday (5 February) the dam was reopened after it was determined the mystery material did not pose a risk to human health.

“Results from laboratory testing of water samples received today have confirmed the biological matter detected in the lake is a non-pathogenic protozoan, a naturally occurring microscopic organism, not known to pose a risk to human health,” said WaterNSW.

“While the presence of this type of microscopic organism can sometimes indicate a potential risk to human health, such as a blue-green algal bloom, the results from the water sampling show no toxic cyanobacteria or associated toxins present.”

Local residents' comments on WaterNSW's Facebook announcement on the Blowering Dam closure.

Local residents’ comments on WaterNSW’s Facebook announcement on the Blowering Dam closure. Photo: WaterNSW Facebook.

Dr McGirr applauded the decision to temporarily close the dam while water quality investigations were underway but said they could have made a better effort to inform the public.

“They have taken some sensible precautions … we don’t want people swimming in blue-green algae,” Dr McGirr said.

“No one quibbles with that, particularly given that’s the source of water supply to Adelong and Tumut.

“When I became aware of the lack of communication and community concerns, I contacted the NSW Water Minister and expressed my concern.”

Blowering Dam is a popular recreational spot, attracting thousands of visitors to the region each year.

“You’ve got people coming from all over the region to the dam and it’s an important asset for the local communities up there,” Dr McGirr said.

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Social media users vented their frustration at Water NSW’s lack of transparency and for not clarifying the reason for the closure and leaving Snowy Valleys’ residents and visitors in the dark.

Despite the residents repeatedly asking WaterNSW for the reasons why the dam was closed on its Facebook post, the water board took nearly 24 hours to reveal its decision.

WaterNSW provided an update late Saturday afternoon (3 February) it was “investigating an unknown black matter observed on the lake’s surface” and water samples from multiple areas across the dam were sent for laboratory analysis.

Visit WaterNSW for further notifications or updates on dam closures.

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